Davos Brief: WEF 2012

Davos Brief: Social Media Engagement at the World Economic Forum Summit
A year ago, January 25, 2011 was for most people an ordinary date on the calendar. The previous year’s holidays had finally ebbed into a new year, and the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, was holding its annual conference. In Cairo, pro-democracy demonstrators convened in the city’s central Tahir Square calling for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down and an end to his repressive military regime. Their demonstration was organized through a network of connections that leveraged Facebook and Twitter. Social media, largely ignored or dismissed as a superficial past-time, had been an instrumental communication tool and platform for students, activists, “citizen journalists,” and others participating and bearing witness to social change as it was happening in Egypt. It was a powerful one as the world watched a collective sharing of information and people organized to pursue an unprecedented pro-democracy movement. Egypt’s January 25 revolution — on the heels of Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution in December 2010 — was broadly branded as the “Arab Spring” with subsequent social struggles unfolding in neighboring states across North Africa and the Gulf in Bahrain, Libya, Morocco, Syria, and Yemen in the weeks that followed.
Egyptian youth had successfully and collectively shared social and mobile platforms that had been sometimes derisively called the “Twitter Revolution” in that country, but that trivializes what happened behind the headlines. Clearly, social media and networks which have been largely adopted by a younger generation can mobilize action and quickly demonstrate effective communication. And social change and unrest did not go unnoticed; TIME Magazine acknowledged The Protester as the Person of the Year. The events culminating in the Arab Spring and late summer’s emergent Occupy Wall Street movement reveals the abundance of social engagement and proving a significant importance across the world.
This year’s World Economic Forum held each year in Davos in January recognizes the value of social media and social engagement and has broadened its reach of openness and communication through social media channels and mobile applications. Despite the exclusivity and elitist nature of the WEF conference — participating attendees representing a cross-section of political, economic and business leaders are there by inivitation-only formality — the five-day event can be followed and accessed via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Foursquare, and several reports are available on Scribd. Online and via the free World Economic Forum iPhone app, live streaming and archived video broadcast feeds are available through its Livestream channel at livestream.com/worldeconomicforum. Interviews in the Social Media Corner archive are with Mashable Founder and CEO Pete Cashmore, Ariana Huffington, President of the Huffington Post Media Group, Robert Scoble from Rackspace, and others.
While this transperancy may be good and levels accessibility to the conference exist beyond the alpine slopes hovering near Davos-Klosters, one of the main themes at this year’s summit addresses Global Risk for 2012. At the center of this issue is economic income disparity in the world, which also happens to be one of the focal points of the global Occupy movement. Some members from its ranks have set up an Occupy WEF igloo and yurt encampment near conference venues and hotels in Davos. It goes without saying that the 99% has a stake in the ongoing dialogue regarding globalization and economic challenges facing the world.
In a meeting between Reuters Social Media Editor Anthony De Rosa and Mashable Founder Pete Cashmore at the Documented at Davos Studio (Reuters TV, 26 January 2012), Cashmore explains, “We’re here at Davos where world leaders come to meet and decide the future of the world. Well, what happens when everyone is empowered to participate in that future? That turns things on its head.”
Image credits: Twilight in Davos, Switzerland, photo: Scott Eells/Bloomberg; World Economic Forum logo; Reuters Social Media Editor Anthony De Rosa and Mashable Founder Pete Cashmore at the Documented at Davos Studio (Reuters TV, Jan 26, 2012); Occupy WEF protesters prepare a yurt in the town of Davos, Switzerland, on January 21, photo: Scott Eells/Bloomberg; Davos/Klosters, Switzerland, 3 Jan 2012, aerial view of the mountain resort, Copyright by World Economic Forum, swiss-image.ch / Photo by Andy Mettler.

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